Apr 04 2014
EDMONTON - For almost 100 years, Alex Decoteau was known as Canada’s first aboriginal police officer, an Olympic athlete, and a war hero who died for his country when he was just 29.
Since last week, he’s become known as a real-life comic book hero.
Decoteau is the subject of the first issue of Legacy of Heroes, a digital comic book series produced by the Edmonton Police Service, aimed at telling the community about the remarkable people and events that are part of its history.
Decoteau was hired by the city police as a constable in 1909 and made a sergeant in 1914. During this time he won most major middle or long distance races in Western Canada and represented Canada at the Olympics in Stockholm in 1912.
He enlisted with the Canadian Army in 1916, and was killed by a sniper in 1917, during the Second Battle of Passchendaele.
The comic was posted online Wednesday, but debuted last week as a special print edition of 3,000 copies that was distributed to students who attended the last public hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission delving into the sordid legacy of Canada’s native residential schools.
Most were unaware of Decoteau and his amazing albeit short life which included growing up in a residential school in Saskatchewan, and immediately struck a resonating chord with participants.
The idea for the comic, believed to be the first of its kind, came from the service’s digital media unit which maintains its websites.
“Two of my guys — Jeff Awid, a storyteller and Jared Robinson, an illustrator — wanted a different way of communicating to the public and there were so many cool stories that we’ve heard internally while working here, that we wanted to share, and this is kind of an interesting way to do it,” said Michael James, who supervises the civilian unit.
“We’re kind of focusing on kids but, of course, everyone is a kid at heart. It kind of rings true with everybody to just know the story, in this case, the story of Alex Decoteau and what he’s done.”
The comic had been in production since last summer and wasn’t intended to be launched during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s four days in Edmonton, “but it actually made a lot of sense for us to use the TRC as a place for the printed versions to go.
“We gave them 3,000 to distribute and they came back and said we need another box,” James said Thursday.
Future comics in the series will likely focus on some of the stories from the canine unit, the first use of an airplane during a police manhunt, and Const. Ezio Faraone who was shot dead while on duty in 1990.
“We’re looking at doing this quarterly because it’s something that takes a bit of time to do,” James said “The stories are endless so there’s lots of heroes and cool stories to pick from.”
Topics will be selected with feedback from a historical committee, some long-serving police members, and from the department’s historical book, EPS The First 100 Years, A History of the Edmonton Police Service.
“We’re looking at printing more editions in response to requests from schools for printed copies, but the intent is for a digital edition,” James said.